CEO INTERVIEW - Diversely: Find the best not just the most obvious talent!
Please share with us briefly what you do.
As CEO of a relatively new start-up, I wear many hats in my day to day role.My overall scope is to create, track and stay within the vision for the business, working with my Co-Founder and our various teams to ensure everyone is on the same page and moving forwards, along with conversations with investors for now and in the future. With a background in Comms, my specialism leans more to the sales, business development, partnership, digital, content, and marketing side of the business, so that takes up much of my time when I’m not ensuring the bigger picture is being fulfilled on time and with purpose.
What were you doing before this?
I have always worked in the Communications industry since leaving university – at first in TV, then radio, then PR, and finally in advertising, but always within the digital space, planning and creating campaigns for audiences and multinationals in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. In 2016, I set up a women’s careers platform called Hopscotch, which won multiple awards and gathered a huge following globally helping women progress in the workplace. We worked with organisations like UN Women, Facebook, Nestle, HSBC, Mastercard, PepsiCo, etc. to do solve the problem, but I became disillusioned with the lack of scalability of the model and moved to set up Diversely earlier this year as a more holistic, impactful and global solution.
Describe your product. How does it work?
Diversely is a bias-free hiring platform that gets to the roots of unconscious bias in the workplace, using tech tools that businesses solve the problem. It consists of three modules – Sourcing, Selection, Hiring – which our users can subscribe to individually or as an end-to-end suite. Our first module ‘Diversely sourcing’, addresses workplace diversity right at the top of the hiring funnel, using smart tools, diversity measurement, and just-in-time learning to increase access and appeal to under-represented groups and reduces early-stage bias. Examples of our sourcing tools include our Job Description Analyser, our Job Ad Poster – which recommends, and makes it easy to post out to, global and niche job boards – and our Applicant Profile Anonymizer. We are currently in beta, testing our tech solutions as we roll them out.
What are the key benefits?
Diversely helps companies to hire the best not just the most obvious talent by increasing the breadth and diversity of talent and removing bias. Our initial experiments with clients on our sourcing module have demonstrated an increased reach of diverse talent up to 70% resulting in 40% more relevant applicants. As we know hiring is always time and resource-constrained, so we’ve also designed our system to reduce time spend by 50%.
Who are your closest competitors?
The HR tech space is a busy one, for good reason! We have a couple of competitors in the US and Australia, but there isn’t a solution that solves the bias issue end to end, nor that has diversity woven through it.
Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
Our first client is Lendela, a Fintech startup from Singapore with a presence in South East Asia. Most of our early clients have come from my co-founder, Hayley Bakker, and my network given we both were already working in the tech and D&I space. Lendela was looking to improve their appeal and outreach, specifically to women, and did not have any tools available so it was a bit of a hit-or-miss (manual) exercise for them in the past.
What motivated you to start this business?
Both Hayley and I had been passionately working to address the problems around (lack of) diversity, specifically for women in business and tech, in our previous roles. We met a couple of years ago and initially bonded over the frustration around having to manually rewrite so many job descriptions to appeal to women. That was the initial inspiration for Diversely, however, we soon realized that was just the tip of the iceberg and committed ourselves to resolve workplace diversity across all under-represented groups - gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, people with disability - and focusing not only on the JD but all elements that may contain bias in the hiring process.
Hayley is the Chief Product Owner at Diversely. She spends most of her time working with our tech team designer and beta testers to design, develop and improve our tech solutions that help our clients to increase the breadth of talent and reduce biases from the hiring process.
Currently, we are completing our Job Description Analyser, which uses scientific research from over two years’ worth of research experience and data from our partners at The University of Nottingham to recognize, reduce and replace biased- language in job descriptions in order to reach broader demographics and attract under-represented groups.
What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
My co-founder and I both had very successful corporate careers before founding our companies. We often discuss the pros and cons related to this decision and always conclude that the advantages far outweigh the downsides. One obvious sacrifice is financial. We have both come down many paygrades to set up our business and have done so willingly because of the impact we hope to make in the world.I in fact have a bit of a history of taking roles that I’m passionate about, even if that means a dip in salary – I think my family and friends have given up trying to talk me out of these decisions!
How did you get funded?
We have just raised an angel round from 9 separate investors – some of whom we knew, most of whom we did not. We found networking and social media (specifically LinkedIn), as well as clever marketing, got us across the line.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
I’d say LinkedIn on the whole (our main traffic driver outside of organic search) and we recently announced the close of our pre-seed round. I’d actually created this press release a month ahead of time and we’d ensured we had our bios, professional shots, and quotes all in line ready to fire out once we hit the target sum. This has been picked up by a number of relevant media in Asia and the Middle East including Tech in Asia. This has been fantastic exposure for us as most of our early clients are from the tech industry, where hiring and diversity are both real challenges. Both our website and beta testing sign up have seen exponential traction and we’ve received support and interest from around the globe!
Describe a typical workday
I like to be flexible, but plan my tasks and time carefully on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis working off lists I create beforehand. I work around my kids drop off and pick up times and base myself half the week from home and a half from a co-working space with Hayley. I try to exercise first thing (gym, swimming, or yoga), get my ‘busy’ work out of the way (emails, marketing posts, admin), and then dive into the deeper stuff like planning, strategy, content, and ideating a little later in my morning (I am not really a morning person!). Calls or meetings can drop in at any time and can range from partners, clients, investors, new business channels, or with the team. On Fridays, I take the kids out in the late afternoon for our little date to round off the week and I try to have my laptop down by 7.30 pm daily, though increasingly we have US or UK calls to take care of after-hours.
Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
My husband, Justin. I’ve seen him build a global business from a one-person office in East London when we first met and all the ups, downs, and drama associated with it. He is hugely consistent and has such a drive to succeed with great ambitions, but always works in a moral and value-driven way. He has always supported me in my work decisions and processes and has absolutely insisted on a positive way of thinking about outcomes.I can’t thank him enough.
What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
We are pretty early on in our journey, having established Diversely less than 6 months ago. The momentum has been amazing and the feedback from potential clients, partners, and our broader network has been so encouraging. Having closed our pre-seed funding round is definitely one of our proudest moments to date, not just because the capital will give us run-way for at least the year ahead, but also because of the caliber of investors we’ve attracted. We’re so honored to have 9 angel investors who understand the HR / HR Tech industry and bring a wealth of expertise and a network that we can tap into to grow the business.
What is your favourite business failure (and what did you learn from it)?
My previous business built in size and reputation very quickly, and quite soon we had an investor interested in joining. It was a bad experience for everyone involved, with the deal taking months too long and the eventual outcome something that ended up damaging the business, our bottom line, and our trajectory. Time is money and I’d say that I learned to be extremely clear before taking any big steps and understand exactly what everyone can offer/wants back from any kind of deal – investor, partner, or client. Business can ONLY work if it’s win/win for all involved and you need to be very focused on the why and how any partnership benefits the company.
If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him/her?
Don’t stress too much whether you should become a specialist or a generalist. Do what you do best, do the right thing, and get it done. The rest will follow. And don’t be afraid to change direction, all the skills you build and experiences you gain will culminate and make sense in the end.
MORE ABOUT HELEN :
- First job – shop assistant in a retail store in my hometown of Coventry, UK (New Look)
- Someone you admire – Professor Brian Cox. I am a bit of a space geek and met him once through my work – he’s very progressive in his opinions and a thoroughly nice guy.
- Favorite book – Kafka on the Shore, Murakami
- Favorite Film – Withnail, and I
- Favorite Music – I used to DJ electronic music as a hobby, but actually have a pretty eclectic collection from techno to folk to death metal
- Favorite author – Haruki Murakami ( I favour Japanese or Indian writers)
- Favorite Gadget – I don’t really do gadgets
- Last holiday – Hoi An, Vietnam
- When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you? At home with my family
FOR MORE INFORMATION :
www.diversely.io and leave your details here to stay informed
Join as beta tester: www.diversely.io/get-involved